Ballard’s Island: Histories, Modernities and Materialities


  • Alexander Beaumont York St John University
  • Daryl Martin University of York


J.G. Ballard, Concrete Island, history, modernity, materiality


This special issue brings together contributions from cultural geographers, design historians and literary scholars analysing J.G. Ballard’s 1974 novel Concrete Island (Ballard 2008), in order to situate it within its historical and political contexts and to consider its relevance to contemporary debates on architecture, landscape and cultural practice. Separately and together, the articles gathered here, inter alia, trace the literary genealogies of the novel; illuminate the historical and political contexts that the novel comments on; explicate the ambivalences of the various discursive and technological modernities acting within the narrative; focus on the distinctive island materialities which Ballard sketches throughout the text, and explore the heightened embodied sensibilities through which its architect protagonist, Maitland, navigates this unintentional landscape. In so doing, the articles collected here advance new readings of the novel that build on the extant Ballard literature, and the special issue as a whole reasserts the prominence of Concrete Island within the wider contexts of Ballard’s career and the culture of the period in which he was writing. We conclude by suggesting that Ballard’s novel presents us with an anamorphic portrait that complicates and strains contemporaneous narratives of English modernity, consumer culture and technological progress.

Author Biographies

Alexander Beaumont, York St John University

Lecturer in English Literature

Daryl Martin, University of York

Lecturer in Sociology






Special Issue Introduction